This blog started out by providing technical analysis of the proposed Ashland third rail. The intent was to show that trying to squeeze a third rail through town — whether at grade or in a trench — is not feasible from an engineering point of view.
But what has happened in the two years that we have been blogging is that it is becoming increasingly obvious (a) that the transportation business is in turmoil as new technology advances very quickly, and (b) authorities such as DRPT and the CTB have not considered how these changes could apply to their proposed high-speed rail project.
As an example of how fast things are changing, just a few days ago a small company called Fisker announced that it has filed for patents for solid-state batteries. Here is what they claim.
- They have an energy density 2.5 times that found in batteries used in current electric cars, such as Tesla. This would give an automobile a range of 500 miles.
- The batteries can be recharged in as little as a minute.
- They are much safer than conventional batteries.
Evidently, Toyota is working on similar technology and hopes to release it by the year 2022.
Are these claims realistic or are they hype? Well, there is certainly some hype. For example, if they really did try to recharge the battery in a minute they would need huge cables and the heat created would probably melt down everything in sight. But the essential point is that our transportation agencies and the railroad companies need to be paying very close attention to all these changes in technology. It is all happening very quickly.